October 24, 2008

Why the Focus on Homes at a Site about Travel?

Occasionally the question arises, "What's with the interest in home design when the main topic here is travel?"

The answer is, "Because trends in home design are currently our best demonstration of future trends in hospitality design." Terms like "livability" are arising to measure the desirability of communities. The immediate post-WW II push to sell home appliances on the appeal of convenience has the following generations thinking bigger. They are evaluating the architecture of their entire domestic envelope -- home, neighborhood, and destinations of choice

The demographic bulge in aging is driving a boom in home design using Universal Design. That population contains the prime candidates for travel. Hotel, resort, and cruise ship businesses are responding by incorporating Universal Design to attract this demographic - although at a painfully slow pace in many cases.

Below is a speech by Chris Hansen, Group Executive Officer of State and National Initiatives at AARP from 2005 hitting all the key themes of this opportunity: Universal Design, Visitability, and Livabiity

No Place Like Home: AARP's View on Livable Communities

2011 is the Symbolic Beginning of Our "Changing Face of Aging"

* The year 2011 just six years from now, will mark the symbolic beginning of a "changing face" of aging in America. That's when the first wave of the 76 million-strong post-World War II "baby boom" generation begins turning 65. The "boomers," of course are those of us born in this country between 1946 and 1964.

* So, it's clearly time to break away from the status quo in our thinking and start focusing on how things should be and can be, given what we know today about the boomers and the aging of America.

* From now on, every planning decision made in every community must take into account the impact on older residents, who can no longer be an afterthought. The ability of our communities to adapt to an aging nation will paramount in the 21st century.

What AARP has Learned About the Boomers

* AARP has done extensive research on the boomers with surveys, studies, and focus groups. So what have we found out about these boomers?

Boomers are More Ethnically Diverse than Prior Generations

* Less than three-quarters of the boomers are white, while nearly 90 percent of Americans born before 1946 are white. Hispanics are now the fastest growing ethnic group and have surpassed African-Americans as our largest minority group.

And More Highly Educated than Their Predecessors

* Twenty-seven percent have college degrees, compared with 12 percent for today's older Americans. More than 60 percent of the boomers have a high school diploma, while only 44 percent of the older groups made it that far.

Boomers Do Not Plan to "Retire" in the Traditional Sense

* They view their "old age" or "retirement years" as a time of lifestyle transition rather than a termination of employment. Many of them fully intend to keep working, although not necessarily in their primary occupations.
* Fully 8 out of 10 of the boomers we surveyed said they will continue to work during their "retirement years." Only 16 percent expect not to work at all, after they retire from their career employment.

Most Boomers Living in the Same "State"

* Something else we've discovered about the boomers: When it comes to aging, most boomers are living in the same state ? the state of denial!

Vast Majority of Boomers Want to Remain in Their Own Homes

* But, for our purposes today, the most important fact about the boomers is that, when asked where they want to live as they age, full 90 percent say, "In my home." They do not want to live with relatives, in a nursing home, or at an assisted care facility. They want to live at home.

No Place Like Home

* The word "home" is one of the most emotionally charged words we ever use. Our homes are central to our identities. They hold our possessions; they hold our memories; they give us a sense of place and belonging, comfort and security.
* Our homes offer us both independence and engagement in community life. We open the doors to our homes to socialize with family, friends and neighbors; and we walk out those doors to work and play in the community.

But Can Boomers Expectations be Realized?

* We may be on a collision course in some key areas with the boomers expectations for their retirement years. The aging of the boomers is merely the beginning of a tidal wave.

America—Like the World—is Aging

* To understand how urgent the challenge of really is, our policymakers must understand our rapidly changing demographics. We are experiencing nothing short of a fundamental change of the age distribution in the United States — and throughout the world.


* By the year 2050, there will be 2 billion older persons in the world-compared with 600 million today. For the first time in world history, older people will outnumber children.
* Every month, approximately 1 million persons reach 60 years of age, and 80 percent of them are in developing countries.
* Nearly two-thirds of all human beings who have ever lived to age 65 are alive today!

United States

* From the birth of Christ to 1900, the beginning of the 20th century, life expectancy in the United States increased each year by an average of three days. Since 1900, life expectancy has increased each year by an average of 110 days, or by 3 2/3 months.
* In 1900, only 13 percent of the U.S. population was 50 or over. By 2000, the percentage had doubled, to over 27 percent. And, by 2020, over 35 percent of our population will be 50 or over.
* One member of the 76 million-strong baby boom generation turns 50 ? and becomes eligible for AARP membership ? every 7.5 seconds. Each coming year, over 4 million men and women will join the ranks of 50+ America.
* A child born in the U.S. in 2000 could expect to live 77 years - fully 30 years longer than a child born in 1900, when life expectancy was only 47years.
* A person reaching 65 today can expect to live an additional 18.6 years, and 2 out of every 5 will reach age 90.
* The size of our 65 and over population has grown from just over 3 million in 1900 to 35 million today ? and is expected to double over the next 30 years, to over 70 million.
* Our fastest growing population segment is people 85 years of age and over. And the second fastest growing population is those who have celebrated their 100th birthday.


* Many organizations would be happy to have 35,000 members. We have 35,000 members who are over 100 years old!

Aging Demographic will Affect ALL Regions

* Some places, like Sun Belt retirement communities, will be affected more than others, but the aging demographic is a nationwide phenomenon. In fact, there's less migration to places like Florida and Arizona than is commonly assumed.
* Since 1990, roughly 90 percent of older Americans have stayed in the county they've been living in, if not the very same home!
* In the 90s, all but 11 of our 318 metropolitan areas saw an increase in their 65+ population. And looking ahead, the 65+ population will grow faster than the population at-large in all 50 states, with 10 states finding themselves in the unique situation of having more Medicare-eligible seniors than school-age children!

We Face Three Major Challenges

* Essentially, we face three major challenges as we approach the boomers' retirement years. Actually, I prefer to call them "opportunities."

1. An opportunity to transform the nation's health-care system;
2. An opportunity to strengthen our retirement income system; and
3. An opportunity to create more livable communities;

* Today, I will devote my time to opportunity number 3 — Livable Communities

Significant Barriers to Spending Aging Years at Home

* Often people don't think about this until they're suddenly confronted with too many steps, hard-to-handle doorknobs, or slippery bathroom floors that can become treacherous overnight.
* Too late, many people discover that they're trapped in towns with poor public transportation. Medical centers and simple services, like grocery or drug stores, can become too hard to reach without the help of a neighbor or friend. Even walking, if there are no sidewalks, can become problematic.

What are Livable Communities?

* It might be helpful if I discuss what we mean by "livability" at this point. While all of us here have at least some familiarity with the concept, it can mean different things to different people.
* In AARP's recently released study, A Report to the Nation on Livable Communities: Creating Environments for Successful Aging, we define livable communities as having "affordable and appropriate housing, supportive community features and services, and adequate mobility options, which together facilitate personal independence and the engagement of residents in civic and social life."
* To put it in simpler terms, we're talking about day-in day-out tasks and activities that are the stuff of life. Livability means visible traffic signs, handrails, one-story living and no-step entry, sidewalks you can actually walk on, bus stops with benches, libraries and parks that are easily accessible and much more.

Most Communities Now Playing Catch-Up

* When it comes to livability, most of our communities are now playing a frantic game of catch-up…and many others don't even realize what's about to hit them. This could be like the clogged artery that goes undetected until it's too late.

Elements of Livability-Housing

* First, and possibly most important, is the problem of affordability. This is of particular interest when so many real estate markets are soaring. For many people, their homes have become their nest eggs, growing almost daily, providing greater financial independence. But these same markets are also making it harder for many other people to find affordable housing.
* After affordability, next in importance is what's called "accessibility". Making a house accessible means figuring out how existing homes can be modified and how new homes should be built so that residents can operate freely and comfortably throughout their lives.

Universal Design

* There is an exciting trend in architecture today known as Universal Design. Some of the features of Universal Design include: No-step entryways, wider doorways, floors and bathtubs with non-slip surfaces, lever door handles, and easy to reach light switches and electrical outlets.
* Another important trend in making housing more accessible is called "visitability." The term means making a home accessible for visitors who might have special needs. It's about creating a home where the welcome mat truly welcomes everyone.

What Some Are Already Doing

* In Vermont, there is a Home Accessibility Program that helps pay for home modifications for disabled persons. But beyond that, Vermont has a Visitability Law, making it the first state to mandate accessibility requirements for new 1-to-3 bedroom housing.
* The state of Georgia has an EasyLiving Home Program, which AARP had a hand in developing. It is a certification program that encourages builders to design single-family homes and town homes with "easy living" features - for example, one stepless entrance into the house; wide doorways; at least one accessible toilet on the main floor.

Elements of Livability - Transportation

* Transportation is another livability challenge that is getting less attention than it should. The 1991 passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act - or ISTEA, as it's known-was a positive step. For the first time, citizens were empowered to make decisions about local transportation funding participation, with environmental impact and other community concerns finally given due consideration.
* And hopefully, we'll soon get a new transportation bill out of Congress that acknowledges the livability challenge and takes some steps to address the mobility needs of older Americans.
* Still, transportation policy remains focused overwhelmingly on the construction and maintenance of roads to accommodate the automobile. And once again, that policy is a response to social behavior. But if we don't start expanding our transportation vision to include buses, rail, walkability, bicycles and more…what's going to happen when millions of baby boomers begin outliving their ability to drive by a decade or more?
* We need huge investments in our mass transit infrastructure. In the Beyond 50 livable communities report AARP released recently, 60 percent of seniors reported that there was no public transportation within a 10-minute walk from their homes. Suburbs and rural areas are especially underserved.
* Public transportation shouldn't just be a last resort for older people who can no longer get behind the wheel safely. Public transportation should be so prevalent and accessible in the community people of all ages use it throughout their lives.

What Some are Already Doing

* In Missouri, the Older Adults Transportation Service (or OATS) provides door-to-door car service at no cost to the elderly and disadvantaged. OATS is an ambitious program, with hundreds of employees and a strong volunteer network serving 87 counties across more than 50,000 square miles. Its fleet of more than 600 vehicles made 1.6 million one-way trips last year.
* In the Washington,DC area, there's Friendship Heights, Maryland, a small village where half the residents are over 50. They have a bus that takes residents to and from stores and the medical building.

Elements of Livability - Mobility

* Mobility is essential to independent living. It gives people the feeling that they have control over their lives. A truly livable community must provide as much mobility to older persons as possible, and it must offer real options that meet individual needs.
* Nearly three quarters of people between the ages of 50 and 74 rely mostly on driving. But that figure drops significantly after the age of 75. And many of those non-drivers say they face severe restrictions on their daily activities. In fact, they were six times as likely to miss doing something they would have liked to do because they did not have the transportation.
* Livable Communities should make life more comfortable and convenient for the active and able as well as those with disabilities. They should offer adequate, smooth, wide sidewalks and well-marked crosswalks. They should make bike riders feel welcome with bike lanes and bike paths. And livable communities should make it easy for those in wheelchairs to navigate curbs and give them adequate time to get across the street.

What Some are Already Doing

* In Los Angeles and in Portland, Oregon, microwave technology is being used to detect when a pedestrian is moving more slowly across an intersection; the detector automatically extends the "Walk" signal for several more seconds to allow for safe crossing.
* Downtown Holland, Michigan, not only has heated sidewalks to make walking safer during the icy winter months; it is also the first community in the nation to propose wiring most churches, public facilities, businesses and homes to deliver broadcast signals to individuals with certain kinds of hearing aids.
* The Friendship Heights, Maryland community has been recognized for its disability access and its park renovations to upgrade lighting and eliminate tripping hazards. There's also a partnership with nearby Suburban Hospital that includes free weekly blood pressure checks and periodic health screenings.

What AARP is Doing

* Right now AARP is engaged in a national dialogue about how to plan for successful aging. We're talking to city planners and community developers. We're talking to home builders and legislators, decision makers and service providers. We're encouraging people to transform their present communities into livable communities.
* We're talking about transforming communities so people can age in place, so they can continue to lead active lives, so they can continue to have independence and freedom, so they can continue to feel connected and be of service to others.

To Succeed - We Need to Change Our Thinking

* Perhaps the greatest challenge we face to creating livable communities is not a simple one to overcome. It's not just a matter of a little more innovation here and a little more money there. What's required is a wholesale overhaul in the way we think about our homes and our environment.
* We can afford our aging baby boomers, and we'll all benefit from a society in which the wisdom, time, and efforts of our older citizens continue to be a vital part of our lives.
* Policymakers and the decisions they make are largely a reflection of prevailing social attitudes. We're all responsible for thinking about these issues and adapting our lifestyles accordingly. We all need to be thinking in terms of how things should be and can be if we act now.
* Livability is not just "a seniors issue." We can and must celebrate the benefits that livable communities offer to all of their residents. After all, a curb-cut designed for a wheelchair user also benefits a parent pushing a baby stroller.
* At its core, livability is about preserving those values that have always been central to the American way of life - independence, self-determination, dignity and choice.
* Building livable communities to accommodate an aging population is a practical goal, but it's also a moral imperative for a society committed to empowering its people and safeguarding their freedom.

Let me close by quoting Fred Astaire. As he put it: "Old age is like everything else. To make a success of it, you've got to start young." So, let's get started!


Posted by rollingrains at October 24, 2008 02:39 PM